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Tuesday, 5 August 2014


If there is one item among office holders in Nigeria that is so cheap to come by it is smooth talk. Few months back when Nigerian President blessed the country with a new defence chief the Adamawa state born military General Alex Badeh made a sensational statement to the effect that the notorious armed Islamic insurgents would be defeated in two months from the date of his swearing in.

Few weeks after the full implication of that statement dawned on him following the intensity of the ferocious terrorism and violent attacks mounted by the insurgents the defence chief made a dramatic 360 degree turn around and denied ever given a time line for the eventual defeat of the terrorists.

Trust public office holders in Nigeria not to learn from the mistakes of the past. The newly appointed acting Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba who formally assumed duties last Friday has followed the familiar pattern of freely dishing out cheap talks on what he would do within his tenure as the nation's police chief. These public office holders do this often and get away without achieving these goals and Nigerian public do not ever ask the necessary question to pin these public office holders down to their sacred pledges.

Knowing the gullible nature of most Nigerian public, the new police head has started with a pledge to protect the weak and the vulnerable in the society. If others would not task him to keep to his words I will hereby do just that and remind him that there are still some vigilant Nigerians who will observe him to ensure that he does what he said he will do.

Abba from North West Nigeria who reportedly spoke exclusively to a national daily on telephone promised to invigorate the war against criminals across the country. He also acknowledged that the current policing institution is ridden with operational rots and therefore would require surgical overhaul but my worry is that he may not necessarily have the political will to effect the necessary revolutionary change since he is a beneficiary of the near comatose system. Someone asked me what I think he stands to benefit by changing the status quo which threw him up in the first instance.

But he defended himself against the charge of lacking the capacity to see through the actualization of the necessary changes in the near decadent Nigeria Police Force and stated that: "our major concern is to protect and assist the weak ones. And as you know, the criminals like to exploit the weak. That’s why the police symbol is the elephant; the elephant is a strong animal and the police are stronger than criminals.”
But this gentleman did not respond to the querry why this so-called elephant [NPF] simply collapses or melts away in the face of the emerging threats against Nigerians by way of armed insurgency in the North East. The Nigerian police force is an elephant with the legs of clay no doubt.

Not discouraged by what is generally considered a groundswell of cynicism among most Nigerian observers the police chief in what is considered his message to criminals stated thus;   "we will continue to consider criminals as threats; we will go after them. We will not relent. We are going to take charge and we would really take charge in the fight against crimes. We will not allow any crime to go unpunished. You know I am a field man, so we will not relent".

“Certainly, our focus would be on violent criminals and these include violence against the weak and the vulnerable.  Violent crimes like armed robbery, like kidnapping and terrorism will be tackled with renewed vigor.”

Recognizing attitudinal poverty among the members of the Nigerian police as the fundamental problem he stated that: “Like I told you, I believe that whatever you do to a man to change him, so long as you allow him to maintain the same bad character, you will not see the change in him".

"So, what we want to do is that we want every police officer to know the values in policing and then work in conformity with the provisions of the Code of Ethics".

The new man in the hot seat of the Nigerian Police must also work on rebuilding the confidence of the public on the integrity of the force because it is almost impossible to fight crime by a police institution whose members are not trusted by the members of the public.

Most people laugh at any mention of the once popular slogan that the Nigerian police is your friend because of the bad encounter they have had with men and officers of the Nigerian Police force which is filled up with many rotten eggs. The police hierarchy must dismantle the clique that protects erring members of the policing institution because it is impossible to win public confidence and trust when the same institution is ever so willing to protect their own who violate the laws of the land which they were set up to enforce.

The new police boss said his team would also ensure that “policing becomes truly intelligence-led while enforcement and crime prevention initiatives are integrated and supportive of each other.”

Now that we have heard from the horse's mouth regarding how he intends to pilot the nation's policing institution let us challenge him to immediately walk the talk as Nigerians are already used to these sweet talks from all angles which end up unrealistic on the long run. From the politicians, Nigerians have come to realize that they need not invest their aspirations and hopes on what the political public office holders say but to fervently pray that their actions would speak louder than their words.

The new acting Inspector General of police is said to be a man of letters because from his academic profile we learnt that he is both a lawyer and a historian placing him in a good position to comprehend and apprehend the fundamental ills of the nation's collapsed policing institution. From his background as a lawyer he must be aware that the current global trend is for the establishment of a vibrant community, local and state policing institutions to compliment the supervisory role of the national or federal policing force. It is expected that unlike his immediate predecessor who appeared to have opposed the best global policing practices, he would not be against the national clamor for the establishment of state police that would be made up of persons from the respective areas so that crime fighting would be thoroughly intelligence driven and knowledge based because you can not give what you do not have and in the same vein no police operative can operate competently in an area that he is a stranger. 

Secondly, from his background as a historian he must be aware that of all the modern policing institutions globally, the Nigerian Police Force is about the only one that has come under considerable focus as one of the worst human rights violator by way of the large scale extra judicial killings that take place among the rank and file. It is satisfying that he has promised to bring about attitudinal change among the members of the Nigerian Police but again the first step is to build up the complete biometric records of all the serving police operatives to build a national data bank to determine the criminal records of all the serving police operatives going by the fact that over the years the recruitment process/mechanism has been anything but transparent and accountable. Erstwhile President Obasanjo had stated that armed robbers and prostitutes have found their ways into the present Nigerian Police Force and so the first task for this historian/lawyer police boss is to fish out these rotten eggs so they stop contaminating the few good ones.

For as long as Nigeria maintains the status quo regarding the structure of the policing institution we may never get it well. My take is that we need to quickly establish the framework for the setting up of state police so the federal policing structure will only exists in supervisory capacity and to take charge of federal crime investigations or crimes that have significant national impact as is done in places like the United States of America. Currently, most communities in the rural Nigeria are not policed whatsoever meaning that they are left at the mercy of criminals. This is the reason why most border communities have come under increasing attacks by insurgents and there is no armed security operatives to save them from these violent attacks. We need to have state police in place so every communities all across Nigeria are adequately protected by armed policing operatives from those communities and the federal police can only be called up to assist if the crime or the nature of attacks surpasses what the local or state policing institution can handle. The Federal Policing force must have all the modern sophisticated weapons and facilities such as serviceable aircrafts to be able to be deployed within record time as soon as their services are required outside of the federal capital territory. 

Administratively, the new police chief needs to dismantle the long existing cliques that spring up the moment a new officer is named the head of the nation's police boss and recognize every officer as first and foremost as a Nigerian and must accord equal respect to all irrespective of their religious or ethnic orientations. The immediate past Inspector General of police was accused severally of working against a section of the country by recommending for retirement officers from that particular zone making it impossible for that zone to produce any head of the Nigerian police in a long time. Specifically since I believe in full disclosure I will state here that it is the South East zone that the last boss of the police was accused of undermining. The Police service Commission must ensure that these claims of discriminatory practices are investigated to foster a sense of oneness among all and sundry in the Nigerian police family.

Another important issue is the need to address once and for all the relevance or lack of it of the Nigerian ministry of police affairs because most observers say this ministry only award fictitious contracts worth several billions of tax payers money and that the actual implementation of these contracts are not done thereby making the police operatives go through hard times since they have little or no clean office or residential accommodations exposing majority of them to the vagaries of squatting with relatives. Even President Jonathan saw this by himself when he visited the moribund Nigerian police Training College in Ikeja Lagos whereby he was confronted by the monumental rot and collapse of all the facilities of that premier police academy. It is high time we review the relevance or otherwise of the police affairs ministry and if need be put the relevant supervisory mechanisms to ensure that procurement practices meet the global best practices and expose and punish persons who have in the past and present stolen from the Nigerian Police which contributed to the near death of the Nigeria Police Force.

+  Emmanuel Onwubiko is head; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and        blogs;